Chasing the nutrition unicorn

The more I go digging for specificity in nutrition (“when’s the best time to consume fats?” “how soon should I eat after training?” “what’s the optimal protein source?”), the more I begin to realize that a general answer works for almost every specific question. For some folks, this answer will cause great frustration, because how can it be that simple? But, it’s worth stressing over and over and over again: none of this matters half as much as how consistent you are, and what your total daily caloric intake is.

If you’re wondering how much protein to have after you work out and if beef or chicken is better, but you’ve barely had 40 grams of protein all day and it’s 7 o’clock at night, then the marginal differences between chicken and beef or 24 grams versus 30 grams at dinner won’t matter much. Focus on your total protein intake for the day first. Once you’re consistently nailing it, we can start to play around with the details.

If you want to recover from your workouts optimally, and I’m sure you all do, remember your recovery already started before you even began your workout. In a sense, it started yesterday. If you’re walking into a workout having slept poorly and under-ate throughout the day, know that even a grassfed, pasture-raised, paleo dinner topped off with a protein shake and 40 minutes of ROMWOD probably won’t achieve what just plain, old-fashioned consistency could.

I like to think of it the same way I think of fashionable “detox” diet cleanses. These teas and juices profess to flush your system of toxins, restoring you to good health. But, recall your body is already its own master detoxifier. That’s what we have our kidneys, liver, skin, and intestines for. We eat nutritious, whole foods, strength train, drink water, and get in quality sleep in order to let our bodies function optimally, and any detox cleanse will never come half as close to reaching those same results.

Note, I am not equating juice cleanse scams to any of the aforementioned recovery protocols. Stretching, bodywork, a solid meal after training – those are all helpful and should be employed. But, be careful that your recovery implements aren’t reactive; eat nutritious foods and in the appropriate amounts throughout the day, not just after a workout when you think it’s most important. Understand that “I’ve ate like crap – I better detox” is nearly the same faulty logic as “My diet is a roller coaster ride – what should I do to not be sore tomorrow?”

You simply can’t manipulate and maneuver around an inconsistent diet through strategic, reactive dieting and detoxing. Your body is too smart! So why should your recovery be any different? You can’t outsmart your body into recovering properly if you’re only viewing your recovery on the other side of your workout. Your recovery is a 24-hour gig, not an encore. Be consistent. Keep your intake appropriate to your goals and your activity level (that’s one question that is worth tailoring to you: how much to eat!). Only then will you discover how truly slick your body is at detoxing and recovering. And maybe, just maybe…you won’t get a general answer from me.

Caitlin

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